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Florida opens as underdog in seven Golden Nugget Games of the Year

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Bettors seem to like the Gators more than bookmakers do.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida isn't expected to have a very good year on football fields in 2015.

The Gators have a patchwork offensive line, a defense that loses its best pass-rusher from a year ago, questions at quarterback, and near-total turnover on their coaching staff — though many would argue the latter is a positive. So it wasn't really a surprise that the Gators were underdogs in all seven betting lines released by the Golden Nugget casino in games featured as "Games of the Year" late last week.

What is surprising is that two of those lines have moved toward Florida since. Here are the lines as they were released on Thursday, and as they were on Saturday, when ESPN's David Purdum reported on early movement in them.

Game Opening Line (June 25) Updated Line (June 27)
Tennessee at Florida Tennessee -2.5 Florida -3
Mississippi at Florida. Mississippi -6 Mississippi -6
Florida at Missouri Missouri -10 Missouri -5.5
Florida at LSU LSU -14 LSU -14
Florida vs. Georgia Georgia -12 Georgia -12
Florida at South Carolina South Carolina -2.5 South Carolina -2.5
Florida State at Florida Florida State -4 Florida State -4.5

Line movement toward a team is often about the existing line drawing a lot of action on one side of the betting, making it more profitable for a bookmaker, always interested in generating as much betting action as possible, to hedge by shifting the line. In the case of the line in the Florida-Missouri game, which Purdum writes moved that 4.5 points in the first hour of betting, it would seem likely most early betting was on Florida to cover the 10-point spread.

The movement in the Florida-Tennessee line is more dramatic, and shifts from the perpetually "rising" Vols to the team that has beaten them in each of the last 10 seasons, and by nine or more points in each of the last five meetings in Gainesville.

Four of the other seven lines have remained static, and the only line that's moved away from Florida is the one in the Florida State game, which has moved half a point toward the Seminoles. But the Gators' average line movement is actually the highest in the SEC, despite bettors clearly liking both Auburn and Texas A&M more than the Golden Nugget did initially and that move toward Florida State.

Florida's other five games are not listed, but it's a safe bet that Florida would be favored in at least its three home meetings with non-conference teams and its home game against Vanderbilt (Tennessee opened as a 17-point favorite over Vandy, and the line had ballooned to 20 points by Saturday), and fair to say that Kentucky might be a slight favorite over the Gators in Lexington if the Golden Nugget posted a line in that game. (If we want to try to scry with relative lines: Auburn is a nine-point favorite at Kentucky; LSU, a three-point favorite over Auburn at home, is a 14-point favorite over Florida at home. The implied 11-point difference between Florida and Auburn would make Florida a small underdog at Kentucky.)

Do you think these lines are accurate and fair? Or is Florida being underestimated?